Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Setting A Course For Improvement

Good morning! Had a conversation with a good friend yesterday, who is going through some problems, and feels very disillusioned with the horse industry.  She is questioning why she is doing it, and putting so much of her time and money into it.  I know she loves her horses, and wants the horse industry to be a place where she can fully enjoy them, but seems to keep butting heads with people who, while only a small minority of the whole, are extremely negative and are souring the experience for her.

So I want to ask all of my readers - what are we doing to make our industry better every single day?  Can each of us look at ourselves and say that we are helping it to evolve into a place where everyone is welcome?  Where horses are respected, techniques are both ethical and logical, and each horse is given a chance to succeed?  Do we value honesty, eschew gossip and encourage good sportsmanship? Are we willing to take people to task when they do wrong?

I have two little boys whom I would love to grow up as I did, showing horses and hanging out with horsey friends.  It gave me something to keep busy with, something to work toward, and something to hope for.  Back then, it wasn't cheap to show horses, but it was certainly more accessible, whereas today, showing horses requires a pretty big sacrifice for the average family.  In light of that huge sacrifice, there should be a huge payoff in doing it, because really, my kids could just stay home and ride.  If I am thinking this way, a life-long horse person, what might new people be thinking about getting in to horses?  How many others are considering not getting involved?

As a parent, it is discouraging to see where our industry is headed.  I see 'professionals' behaving despicably, cheating, abusing their horses, spreading lies about their competition, attempting to ruin other people's reputations, while people who are too afraid to stand up go along with it.  I know that there are great horseman out there, and I know that I will be the strongest influence on my children's show career, yet, I am hesitant, just like my friend, to put so much time and money into something that seems to value the wrong things.  I know we can do better, and I hope that we can return to some of the values that I grew up with - honest competition, respecting other competitors, seeing that the horse as a whole is more important than an single performance, just like acknowledging that the industry as a whole is more important than a single win.  Winning at all costs, and 'crushing' the competition, may have a short term gain for one barn, but causes us all to lose.  We all need to be aware of opportunities to make our industry better, welcome newcomers, and promote those who represent what is good and right about competing with horses.  If we don't, people will continue to leave the industry, or avoid it all together.  And we need everyone on board if we are going to survive.
Have a fantastic day!